As the second day of searching for two missing Costa Mesa hikers ended, resident John Sendrey decided it had gone on long enough.
The 42-year-old IBM programmer thought a data- and technology-driven approach could be the key to finding Kyndall Jack, 18, and Nicolas Cendoya, 19. He took four buses and rode his bike to get to Trabuco Canyon armed with his iPad, iPhone and computer.
"My plan was to go out there, not to do the actual search … but to implement the technology out there," Sendrey said.
Instead, wearing Topsiders and mud-caked jeans, he became one of the first people in the protracted hunt to spot the lost woman Thursday morning, pointing rescuers to her perch on a nearly vertical precipice.
Sendrey, a Costa Mesa resident, spent Wednesday getting the lay of the land, visiting the official command post and later biking toward the trailhead. He urged other hikers, to no avail, to track their progress on virtual ArcGIS maps that illustrated the rugged terrain that concealed the two for so long.
But perhaps his presence made a difference anyway. Wednesday night, out of chaos emerged order, with volunteers organizing where to look next.
One volunteer donated a large white map that illustrated where hikers had headed and where they were most needed.
Another, Jeff Polaski, who also serves as a volunteer firefighter, organized groups of hikers by the level of their expertise, gathering names and phone numbers.
As night fell, the dusty impromptu gathering point got quiet. Many people left, while others hunkered down in their cars. Sendrey, a father of three young boys, brought no car to camp in and spent the sleepless cool night studying the maps.
Wearing just a jacket, he imagined what Jack, unprepared for four nights in the wilderness, must be experiencing.
"At least I had the company of the light and the bugs attracted to it," he said.
About 4 a.m. after hours of studying the map, it all made sense. Sendrey gleaned information on areas unexplored based on information from various maps, hiker locations recorded and reports of what Cendoya said.
"It's almost like the map was talking to me," he said.
Under a crescent moon he set out, biking to a point that ended up being about a third of a mile from Jack.
He climbed a ridge, thinking that as in chess he needed scope. He needed to be able to shout into canyons on either side, and maximize where his voice could travel.
"If I commit myself to a canyon, I'm effective in that canyon only," he thought. "That became my strategy."
He was discouraged seeing how little area he traveled over the rugged landscape, mapping points on his GPS. Before long he discovered which plants had shallow roots and which ones he could grab ahold of.
He shouted a variety of phrases. Sometimes it was "Hello?" Other times it was "Yo" or "Marco," anything to elicit a response.
He finally got one: "What?"
Cautiously he headed in the direction of the voice, unsure if he was hearing the lost hiker. He texted his whereabouts to Polaski, who then relayed that information to law enforcement officials.
"He had my number and he sent me a text," Polaski said. "He wanted to know where I was. I called 911."
After "some confusion" trying to coordinate with sheriff's deputies, Polaski said he sent Sendrey's GPS coordinates to authorities, who arrived on-scene.
Orange County Sheriff's Department Lt. Jason Park confirmed that law enforcement officials were in contact via text messages with someone. About the same time Sendrey corresponded with officials, a group of Los Angeles and Ventura sheriff's department hikers heard Jack's voice, Park said. They headed in her direction. Those hikers were on the same side of the creek bed as Jack, Park said.
"It is possible they were hearing the same voice," Park said. "Even if they were quite a distance apart."
Sendrey, who continued to hike to get closer to the voice, eventually spotted her on across from where he was and blew his soccer referee whistle to get everyone's attention.
Who spotted Jack first remains unclear.
"I've never cried like that probably since I was a kid," Sendrey said. "I looked across and there she was."
As the helicopter approached, Sendrey continued to try to help, motioning with straightened arms much as a marshaller on the runway directs planes.
But the high of discovering Jack became a low when he heard someone was hurt.
He didn't see the sheriff's department deputy fall the 60 feet and suffer a head injury. He only heard "man down." He called those moments a "totally, totally emotional roller coaster."
"That kind of thing is a really emotional experience which is just incredible to me," Polaski said. "What he did was just heroic."
The hurt deputy remained in serious but stable condition, able to move his limbs and respond, according to OCSD Public Relations Manager Gail Krause.
With the journey home again including four bus rides and biking, Sendrey missed his 9-year-old's birthday dinner.
At Davis Magnet School's flag deck Friday morning, Sendrey was acknowledged. His 9- and 11-year-olds attend the school.
"He is such a good-hearted person and he doesn't even know this family," said Kim Bertrand, who is in the PTA with Sendrey. "He's just a really really nice, humble man."
— Staff writer Jill Cowan contributed to this report.